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Community Engagement and Participatory Design: Evolution of Participatory Urban Design

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Community engagement and participatory design: Evolution of participatory urban design


In Scotland, studies had shown that more than one in three people are affected by mental health problems each year and the most common illnesses are depression anxiety. Stigmas has always lingered Glasgow since early 19th century. Stigma from great depression to low employments and poverty then to housing crisis and poor urban planning after the two World War. Scotland’s urban planning has been improving since the Scottish Government initiatives to create sustainable communities but, studies indicate that Scottish people has not shown any signs of recovering from previous stigmas. Glasgow is no exception as the city has one of the highest health disparities in Scotland or United Kingdom. The dissertation investigates how Scotland’s participatory design could contribute to the well-being of mental health communities in Glasgow.


01 Introduction

1.1 Research Statement

‘Think globally, act locally’ – Sir Patrick Geddes, 1915

Participatory design is an approach where all stakeholders are involved in the design process. Traditional design projects typically involved the paying client and professionals within similar & related industries while in participatory design, members of the wider community are recognized as legitimate stakeholders with the abilities to impact the project. (P!D, 2012)

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In the early 20th century, when most of the urban city was planned according to an utopian visionary Sir Ebenezer Howard’s vision, a pioneering planner Patrick Geddes in his 1915 book ‘Cities in Evolution’ advocate on planning that considers the needs and ideas of local community. (A History of Participatory Design, 2017). Both Patrick Geddes and Andres Duany are prime exemplar, advocating sustainable city developments through participatory design. Patrick Geddes was well known for its successful master planning in Scotland, India and Israel through his bioregionalism and ecological planning while Andres Duany was acknowledged through his urban redevelopment of Florida and Miami, America while implementing his charrette in creating a better city.

1.2 Background & Context

After the end of the First World War in 1918, Scotland went into a steady economic decline, shedding thousands of high paying engineering jobs and caused very high rates of unemployment especially during the 1930s. Cities in Scotland especially Glasgow were in deprivation state when both of its staple businesses, ship building and heavy steelwork were fallen into steep decline. Although the Second World War was able to temporarily reverse the decline, but the condition worsens again during the 1950s and 1960s. (Wikipedia, Economic history of Scotland)

In addition to economic depression, Scotland was also experiencing a large influx of migrants from Highlands and Ireland into urban cities especially Glasgow searching for work during the industrial era. Overcrowded tenement became a common thing as multiple families were seen living together in a single or double room houses. The influx of poor working families eventually led to overcrowding and housing crisis, as affordable accommodation was in short supply. (A History of the Scottish People, Urban Housing in Scotland 1840-1940)

Countermeasures were taken by the Scottish Government to solve Glasgow overcrowding population. The Scottish Government aims to steer economic investments away from Glasgow by dispersing the population to outer areas and new towns. Although the overcrowding was resolved but, in turn it created population, socio & economic disparities within Glasgow as only skilled workforce and young families were relocated while the poor and old individuals were left behind. The poor working families eventually succumbed into depression, crime & drug usage due to low employments. Glasgow was eventually named the ‘sick man of Europe’ and was experiencing a deprivation phenomenon known as ‘Glasgow effect’.

1.3 Motivation of Study

The motivation for this study derives from how urban town planning had transformed during the period between early 19th century and 21st century. The first was intended to improve the poor infrastructure and public health existed in the Old Town, Edinburgh while the latter was to address the consequences of rapid and unnecessary urbanization onto local community developments. Although both town planning system strived to achieve sustainable living environment but each exhibits different characteristics and aspects of how a successful city should be.

1.4 Research Aims & Objectives

The research aim of this topic is to understand how these two different eras town planning systems were able to create sustainable city growth while retaining each city’s flairs and their citizen’s lifestyle. Aspects such as culture, sanitation, economic, social civic, politics, housing, green spaces and etc. were carefully taken into consideration to avoid creating hostile and unfamiliar living environments. The topic also aims to understand what are the approach taken and how have they benefits or affect the local communities.

1.5 Research Questions

– How has urban design evolve over the century since the early 19th century?

– How does Sir Patrick Geddes’s bioregionalism inspired master planning differ or similar to Duany Plater-Zyberk’s charrettes?

02 Urbanization

Industrial Revolution

Europe and America cities generally didn’t experience urbanization not until the start of 18th century Industrial Revolution where people start migrating from rural places into nearby cities or towns in search of better opportunities. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late 1700s, manufacturing was mostly done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. The rise of iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine contributed greatly to the development of improved transportation, communication and banking system. Although industrialization had brought positive impacts on the economy and living standards of the middle and upper classes but, overaly it resulted in grim employment and living conditions for the poor and working classes. (Industrial Revolution, History.com Editors, 29 October 2009).

Sir Walter Scott states that:

‘The state of society now leads so much to great accumulations of humanity that we cannot wonder if it ferment and reek like a compost dunghill. Nature intended that population should be diffused over the soil in proportion to its extent. We have accumulated in huge cities and smothering manufacturies the numbers which should be spread over the face of a country and what wonder that they should be corrupted? We have turned healthful and pleasant brooks into morasses and pestiferous lakes’

Urban Conditions

Greater cities such as London, Glasgow, Manchester & etc. were experiencing large influx of migration in the first phase of Industrial Revolution. In addition to restricted techniques and technologies of the machinery, urban and industrialized areas were unable to cope with the large influx of migration which eventually lead to inadequate, overcrowded housing and polluted, unsanitary living conditions. (Industrial Revolution, History.com Editors, 29 October 2009).

Working environments were reported to be both dangerous and monotonous. Aspects such as workers’ health, safety and labor rights were not prioritized as the poor and working classes had no bargaining power to demand for better wages and working conditions. Many of the unemployed or underemployed were skilled workers as they couldn’t cope with the efficiency of the new machineries. Adults and children worked long hours without any holidays and accidents on site were reported to be a common sight. Sadler report stated that:

‘…there are factories, no means few in number, nor confined to the smaller mills, in which serious accidents are continually occurring, and in which, notwithstanding, dangerous parts of the machinery are allowed to remained unfenced’. (Modern World History, Effects of the Industrial Revolution)

Figure 1 : Illustration of poor working environment inside the coalfield

Quality of living conditions decreased dramatically compared to pre-industrialized eras. There were no sense of culture and identity among the communities during the industrialization. Workers work long hours with no time for recreation opportunities. In addition to local government active ban on traditional festivals in the cities, people from the working class did not share the same traditional sense of village community. Workers were fined by owners for leaving and interrupting the factories work efficiency. (Modern World History, Effects of the Industrial Revolution).

Figure 2 : Illustration of cities slum area

The poorest of the poor were reported to have the worst living conditions. Workhouses were established by the government to ease the housing crisis but, they were by no means a safe haven for the poor families. The workhouses were designed to punish people for their poverty, disregarding them as a liability and shame of the society. The facilities were also placed in rural areas instead of city center hiding from the rich and upper classes plain views. (Poorhouses were designed to punish people for their poverty, Erin Blackmore, 30 Jan 2018)

Figure 3 & 4: Plan for Aberdeen Poorhouse drawn up by the architects Mackenzie & Matthews in 1847


The Industrial Revolution has stirred a progressive movement among the international communities, creating new technologies and innovation but with the cost of its local livability. Short term solution provided by the city municipality caused the lost of cultural identity and the rise of social stigmas from previous urban planning. This brings author to question the possibility of alternate ending if the early urban planning and policies were done with its people in mind?

03 Rise of urban reforms

Scotland first encountering with participatory design was when Sir Patrick Geddes design the master planning of Edinburgh Old Town district.

Case Study: Tel Aviv, Israel

  1. hierarchical grid of streets forms large blocks
  2. small-scale domestic dwellings serve as the standard building tpe
  3. each block and dwellings within it were to be arranged around central open spaces
  4. a concentration of cultural institutions in the area of today’s Habima Theatre with nearby Dizengoff Circle as the ‘Central City feature’.

– garden spaces made Geddes identify the new Tel-Aviv as ‘a transition place and a link between the over-crowded cities of Europe and the renewal of Agricultural Palestine’.

– Some of the routes of the north-south streets, especially those close to the ocean, but also east-west streets, for example Arlozoroff Street, were not solely based on the intuition of Geddes. Instead, they broadly continued directions of existing streets that, for example, originated in Jaffa, old Tel-Aviv, or other neighborhoods nearby. In one of his Indian town planning reports Geddes explained that ‘existing roads…are the past product of practical life…, and observation and common sense alike show them to be in the right direcions’.


The word charrette is derived from the French word for ‘cart’ or ‘chariot’. Its use in the sense of design and planning arose in the 19th century at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where it was not unusual at the end of a term for teams of student architects to work right up until a deadline, when a charrette would be wheeled among them to collect up their scale models and other work for review. (Wikipedia)

In modern urban planning term, a charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and other professional bodies collaborate on a vision for urban development. It provides a forum for ideas, brainstorming and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. Opportunities given to local communities to be the voice’s of the development. (What is a Charrette, The Town Paper).

It was first introduced by an American architect and urban planner, Andres Duany as an instrument to create a renewed focus on walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, in reaction against the sprawling, car-centric modernist urbanism of the previous decades.

(1) Case study: Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow, the post industrial city has been known as a great city with its rich history and culture. During the medieval era, it was known to be a capital for the Kingdom of Strathclyde. It was once a successful trading port during the 18th century but it was during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century that the city achieved its greatest feat. It became one of the most thriving economy city in UK with its shipbuilding and marine engineering industries. Between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, Glasgow city experienced a drastic increase in human population which amount to 1,127,825 people in 1938. Not only Glasgow but the Industrial Revolution has also greatly impact the economy of its surrounding region such as Govan. After the establishment of the Fairfield Yard, the population of Govan increased by tenfold: from 9,000 in 1864 to 95,000 in 1907. It once became the 7th largest town in Scotland during the era.

With the sudden boom of people migrating into Glasgow, detailed city planning framework was needed in order to accommodate the people. Although buildings were constructed to provide the facilities and daily needs of the people but they were basically built with economy in mind not its local communities. In the end, the city became a hostile environment with its dark, gloomy and dangerous atmosphere. Buildings were not designed in respond to the rich culture context especially the public housings. Due to the sudden demand, they were designed with quantity over quality. The alleyways were long, small and narrow because of the way buildings were designed. The city was clearly suffocating without any green spaces. The mental health and life hood of the people were affected, thus leading them to poverty and depressed living condition.

Although that Scottish government had taken the initiatives to make place-making a priority in these recent years but local communities are still experiencing the urban stigma. Glaswegians are experiencing a state of deprivation known as Glasgow effect where they had higher chance of premature death and lower health conditions than people from similarly deprived parts of other cities in UK such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

(3) Conclusion

In conclusion, the case study has shown that poor urban planning and civic leadership could eventually lead to unhealthy and unproductive urban environment. The after effects of previous urban planning could still be seen haunting fellow Glaswegians even in today’s modern society. If the urban planning were to be done with more community friendly approach, the state of Glasgow social welfare and culture sector might had seen better days.


Chapter 4: Literature Review

(1) Patrick Geddes asserts:

‘Think globally, act locally’

Since the start of 20th century, there has been an increase amount of architectural buildings around the world due the booming economy provided. However, there are buildings in my point of view doesn’t seems to fit in within the site context given. For example, Sky Garden also known as the Walkie Talkie designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects. Although it was initially praised for its high performance and energy efficient feature but at last it turns out to be an liability to the local community. Due to its bulbous figure cladded with full glass façade, there has been a temperature increase along 20 Fenchurch Street due to intense sunlight being reflected on it. The architect should have prioritized imprinting local context onto the building instead of conceptual idea during the design scheme. The government should also called on architects and developers to design and think with global setting but local friendly approach.

(2) Le Corbusier asserts:

‘Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep’

The Vitruvian man could perhaps be the prime example in regards of the quote above. Revered as the golden rule of thumb since its creation by Leornado Da Vinci, were widely studied and researched by architects for its ideology of achieving harmony with human proportions and architecture planning. The same concept could also be applied on urban planning in order to achieve equilibrium of green spaces and urban development. There should be a balance of negative and positive spaces within the city which will not only achieve sustainable and healthy living environment but also leaving a positive impact on social and culture development within local communities themselves.

(3) Richard Florida asserts:

‘Successful places are authentic’

How does a city distinguished itself from any other cities around the world? Authenticity is about creative applications of talent, technology and tolerance and an understanding of time on each individual. The sequence of transitioning from an old settlement towards a new development while preserving its history, culture and art are what gives each city a certain distinct characteristics. Contextual settings and landscape which are only known to the local community. Instead of rebranding the area, architects and city planners should proceed with open minded using creative approach on each contextual settings. Let the people be actively involved in shaping places as each of places signify different meanings to every individuals.

Chapter 5 : Research Plan

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Thursday Design Studies 4A Design Studies 4A Dissertation Leisure
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Dissertation Health & the City works Social
Saturday Dissertation Lunch Design works Health & the City works Social
Sunday Dissertation Dissertation Leisure Design works Leisure



In conclusion, participatory design (PD) has been around since the early 20th century but most of the urban cities are not utilizing this process. Although Glasgow urban planning are currently experiencing a revolutionary feat itself, but it is still pre-developing stage to produce a sustainable urban community. By taking Glasgow as a case study where participatory design had became a fundamental aspect in urban planning, I hoped that I will be able to identify the pros and cons of participatory design and how does it benefits the well-being of mental health individual if the place-making were done with them as priorities.


Annotated Bibliography

(1) Urban Design Group (UDG), 2010, Growing the place in hard times – Speirs Locks, Glasgow (pg 18-20), Issue 114 Urban Design_Spring 2010

In this article UDG has reviewed on how does community friendly approach could affect the Speirs Locks masterplan proposal; revitalizing the existing urban environment as the new cultural hub in Glasgow. The architects aimed to achieve an ideal scheme where by emphasizing more cultural values development in order to create a more sustainable communities. By liaising with both city council & various cultural organizations, the architects were able to use the data collected to develop the regeneration framework for the new masterplan proposal. Their proposal emphasized on reusing unplanned urban spaces as one of the development main feature by introducing new facilities in the community neighborhood, thus reactivating the area and generating economic, creative and social values. The article is useful to my research topic as it has shown that community friendly design approach could turns out to be an effective urban planning system rather than using the conventional way of imposing new design schemes towards projects without regarding the pros and cons on the communities lifestyle. In conclusion, the article indicated that government, developers and architects should collaborate with the local communities in order to understand what are essential and non-essential in their neighborhood. Although the demand for quality place-making and sustainable forms of development are the next step of urban planning but people will only start valuing these aspects if they benefits the local community.

(2) Urban Design Group (USG), 2010, Where’s the magic : civic ambition in Glasgow and Chicago (pg 30-32), Issue 114 Urban Design_Spring 2010

UDG discussed the importance of civic leadership in shaping a successful urban city. In this article, the author took these two major cities to be compared; Glasgow and Chicago in order to sort out what are the aspects which differentiate them greatly. Both cities are considered as post industrial cities but Chicago was named as one of the most influential city in the world compared to Glasgow which were reported to have low life expectancy and poor health in UK. The article was helpful stating that successful urban planning could be made under two aspects; great leadership and support from the state government and the act of putting city residents as priorities. Proper urban planning and facilities attracts people into the cities, thus bringing in different possibilities of economy, creativity, and culture which could in turn generate great incomes and social values for these cities. In conclusion, this topic had allowed me to achieve the ideal sustainable community design, the state government should work hand in hand with the local communities as it the people that make cities great. This article will not form the basis of my research, however it will be useful supplementary information for my research on community engagement and participatory design.

(3) Urban Design Group (USG), 2010, Urbanism in Scotland (pg 29-30), Issue 114 Urban Design_Spring 2010

This article talked on the importance road and street planning in contributing a successful urban regeneration program. Streets has always been viewed as spaces for gathering and conducting public activities. They played their role and function as a movement corridor and a public space to improve social capital of the community. Original street grids are slowly disappearing in today’s town due to interception of modern roadworks or rail works which disconnected part of the city from its cultural counter parts. The author were able to reach an hypothesis from the analysis done in Paisley, seven miles west of Glasgow. Analysis has shown that the renewal initiative at the north side of Town Centre were severed from the rest of Paisley by a railway viaduct running through Gilmour Street station. The article has emphasized that new streets should be designed to link communities rather than becoming barriers especially in regards to transit oriented projects. In doing so, it will increase public transport ridership by reducing the use of private cars and by promoting sustainable urban growth.

(4) Urban Design Group (USG), 2010, Call of the urban wild (pg 21-23), Issue 114 Urban Design_Spring 2010

The article review the influences of urban planning and green spaces on people and their city. It debated on the relationship between urbanism and wild landscape to underpin a successful 21st century community. Nature has long been considered to be a natural remedy for both health and social issues. City planners and architects should considered this aspect at all level, from planning policy to architecture. Edinburgh, Scotland was considered to be a successful city due to its high urban density and landscape working hand in hand as one urban cell. With proper facilities and easy access to nature, it tends to leave a positive results on people development of lifestyle. The article was useful towards my research topic as it has shown that not only Edinburgh but Oslo and Leith as well to achieve an equilibrium balance of lifestyle and density. This has allow possibilities of other cities in Europe to change their ways of shaping their cities. The main limitation of the article is that studies were only done within Europe and UK where as there are still uncertainty on how these theories would affect countries outside of Europe and UK. In conclusion, there are currently no rule of thumb standard in regards of the article as different cities has different contextual settings.

(5) Urban Design Group (USG), 2010, What makes a place? (pg 13-15), Issue 114 Urban Design, Spring 2010

In this article, the author review the initiatives taken my the Scottish Government to create exemplar projects and processes to drive forward the place and design agenda in Scotland. The author discussed the fundamental aspects in creating quality places by analyzing city entry point, roadworks, land usage , and future development within the urban community. Their research focuses on assessing the participation of public sectors and local community in community oriented place-making projects. The article has argued that people must actively participate in shaping places if the places were designed specifically for people. It also stated that public sector play a key role through its decision-making and service delivery functions, in shaping places. Therefore, visionary and ambitious plans must be a combination of the place-shaping function of local government, positive and proactive leadership and active engagement by citizens. In conclusion, the author has indicated that a place is not a single responsibility. As the economic landscape changes, architects and city planners need to think increasingly creatively about place, and how a range of parties shape decisions to make places where people want to be.


Annotated Bibliography


  • A History of Participatory Design. ( 22 September 2017 )


  • Industrial Revolution. History.com Editors. (29 October 2009)


  • Economic History of Scotland


  • Urban Design ( 2010). Urbanism in Scotland (pg 29-30)


  • Urban Design (2010). Where’s the magic : civic ambition in Glasgow and Chicago (pg 30-32)


  • Urban Design (2010). Growing the place in hard times – Speirs Locks, Glasgow (pg 18-20)


  • Urban Design (2010). Call of the urban wild (pg 21-23)


  • Participate in Design (2012)


  • Architecture & Design Scotland. Making places : Improving Existing Places


  • Scotcities.com . Govan, Glasgow – Architecture & History –


  • The Guardian (10 Jun 2016). The Glasgow effect : ‘We die young here – but you just get on with it’



  • The Enlightenment & Industrial Revolution


  • History.com .Modern World History. Effects of the Industrial Revolution


  • Poorhouses were designed to punish people for their poverty.



  • Tim Sharpe (1999). Participatory Design Methods in Glasgow



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